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AUSTIN — An embattled $3 billion cancer-fighting fund in Texas will recover from a controversy that led two Nobel laureates and others to resign over allegations that politics trumped science in spending decisions, state officials told stakeholders Wednesday.

The Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas opened its annual meeting under a cloud of scrutiny brought by the mass resignation of nearly three dozen scientists, some of whom criticized the fund for “hucksterism” and “suspicion of favoritism” on their way out the door.

All were out-of-state peer reviewers who served on the first line of choosing which proposals were worthy of taxpayer dollars.

The state is trying to reverse the damage this week and kicked off the agency’s conference with a vote of support from Dr. Brian Druker, who is behind the breakthrough cancer drug Gleevec and among the world’s most foremost cancer researchers.

REGION

Panel: Pregnant women need whooping cough shot

An expert panel is urging every expecting mother to get a shot preventing whooping cough, preferably in the last three months of her pregnancy to help protect her baby.

The advice follows a frightening resurgence of the dreaded childhood disease. More than 32,000 cases, including 16 deaths, have been reported so far this year, and 2012 is on track to be the nation’s worst year for whooping cough since 1959.

It’s only the second time a vaccine has been advised for all women during pregnancy. Flu shots were first recommended for them in the 1990s.

The new advice was approved in a vote Wednesday by the government’s vaccine advisory panel. Federal health officials usually adopt the group’s guidance and promote it to doctors and the public.

OKLAHOMA

U.S.: Judge must deny store birth-control case

OKLAHOMA CITY — The U.S. government is urging a federal judge to deny a Hobby Lobby Stores request to block the enforcement of a new health care law that requires employers to give staff insurance coverage for the morning-after pill and similar drugs.

Last month, the arts and crafts supply chain filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Oklahoma City that alleges the mandate is unconstitutional.

The company wants an injunction to prohibit the law’s enforcement. The Oklahoma City-based store says the mandate will force its owners to violate deeply held religious beliefs under threat of heavy fines.

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